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The Proletariat in Power, for Trotsky after 1905 Russian Revolution

Saturday 22 January 2022

The Proletariat in Power, for Trotsky after 1905 Russian Revolution

Revolution and the Proletariat

Revolution is an open measurement of strength between social forces in a struggle for power. The State is not an end in itself. It is only a machine in the hands of the dominating social forces. Like every machine it has its motor, transmitting and executive mechanism. The driving force of the State is class interest; its motor mechanism is agitation, the press, church and school propaganda, parties, street meetings, petitions and revolts. The transmitting mechanism is the legislative organization of caste, dynastic, estate or class interests represented as the will of God (absolutism) or the will of the nation (parliamentarism). Finally, the executive mechanism is the administration, with its police, the courts, with their prisons, and the army.

The State is not an end in itself, but is a tremendous means for organizing, disorganizing and reorganizing social relations. It can be a powerful lever for revolution or a tool for organized stagnation, depending on the hands that control it.

Every political party worthy of the name strives to capture political power and thus place the State at the service of the class whose interests it expresses. The Social-Democrats, being the party of the proletariat, naturally strive for the political domination of the working class.

The proletariat grows and becomes stronger with the growth of capitalism. In this sense the development of capitalism is also the development of the proletariat towards dictatorship. But the day and the hour when power will pass into the hands of the working class depends directly not upon the level attained by the productive forces but upon relations in the class struggle, upon the international situation, and, finally, upon a number of subjective factors: the traditions, the initiative and the readiness to fight of the workers.

It is possible for the workers to come to power in an economically backward country sooner than in an advanced country. In 1871 the workers deliberately took power in their hands in petty-bourgeois Paris – true, for only two months, but in the big-capitalist centres of Britain or the United States the workers have never held power for so much as an hour. To imagine that the dictatorship of the proletariat is in some way automatically dependent on the technical development and resources of a country is a prejudice of ‘economic’ materialism simplified to absurdity. This point of view has nothing in common with Marxism.

In our view, the Russian revolution will create conditions in which power can pass into the hands of the workers – and in the event of the victory of the revolution it must do so – before the politicians of bourgeois liberalism get the chance to display to the full their talent for governing.

Summing up the revolution and counter-revolution of 1848-49 in the American newspaper The Tribune, Marx wrote:

‘The working class in Germany is, in its social and political development, as far behind that of England and France as the German bourgeoisie is behind the bourgeoisie of those countries. Like master, like man. The evolution of the conditions of existence for a numerous, strong, concentrated and intelligent proletarian class goes hand in hand with the development of the conditions of existence for a numerous, wealthy, concentrated and powerful middle class. The working-class movement itself never is independent, never is of an exclusively proletarian character until all the different factions of the middle class, and particularly its most progressive faction, the large manufacturers, have conquered political power, and remodeled the State according to their wants. It is then that the inevitable conflict between the employer and the employed becomes imminent, and cannot be adjourned any longer ...’ [1]

This quotation is probably familiar to the reader, for it has been considerably abused by the textual Marxists in recent times. It has been brought forward as an irrefutable argument against the idea of a working class government in Russia. ‘Like master, like man.’ If the capitalist bourgeoisie is not strong enough to take power, they argue, then it is still less possible to establish a workers’ democracy, i.e., the political domination of the proletariat.

Marxism is above all a method of analysis – not analysis of texts, but analysis of social relations. Is it true that, in Russia, the weakness of capitalist liberalism inevitably means the weakness of the labour movement? Is it true, for Russia, that there cannot be an independent labour movement until the bourgeoisie has conquered power? It is sufficient merely to put these questions to see what a hopeless formalism lies concealed beneath the attempt to convert an historically-relative remark of Marx’s into a supra-historical axiom.

During the period of the industrial boom, the development of factory industry in Russia bore an ‘American’ character; but in its actual dimensions capitalist industry in Russia is an infant compared with the industry of the United States. Five million persons – 16.6 per cent of the economically occupied population – are engaged in manufacturing industry in Russia; for the USA the corresponding figures would be six million and 22.2 per cent. These figures still tell us comparatively little, but they become eloquent if we recall that the population of Russia is nearly twice that of the USA. But in order to appreciate the actual dimensions of Russian and American industry it should be observed that in 1900 the American factories and large workshops turned out goods for sale to the amount of 25 milliard roubles, while in the same period the Russian factories turned out goods to the value of less than two and a half milliard roubles. [2]

There is no doubt that the numbers, the concentration, the culture and the political importance of the industrial proletariat depend on the extent to which capitalist industry is developed. But this dependence is not direct. Between the productive forces of a country and the political strength of its classes there cut across at any given moment various social and political factors of a national and international character, and these displace and even sometimes completely alter the political expression of economic relations. In spite of the fact that the productive forces of the United States are ten times as great as those of Russia, nevertheless the political role of the Russian proletariat, its influence on the politics of its own country and the possibility of its influencing the politics of the world in the near future are incomparably greater than in the case of the proletariat of the United States.

Kautsky, in his recent book on the American proletariat, points out that there is no direct relation between the political power of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, on the one hand, and the level of capitalist development on the other. ‘Two states exist’ he says, ‘diametrically contrasted one with the other. In one of them there is developed inordinately, i.e., out of proportion to the level of the development of the capitalist mode of production, one of the elements of the latter, and in the other, another of these elements. In one state – America – it is the capitalist class, while in Russia it is the proletariat. In no other country than America is there so much basis for speaking of the dictatorship of capital, while the militant proletariat has nowhere acquired such importance as in Russia. This importance must and undoubtedly will increase, because this country only recently began to take a part in the modern class struggle, and has only recently provided a certain amount of elbow room for it.’ Pointing out that Germany, to a certain extent, may learn its future from Russia, Kautsky continues: ‘It is indeed most extraordinary that the Russian proletariat should be showing us our future, in so far as this is expressed not in the extent of the development of capital, but in the protest of the working class. The fact that this Russia is the most backward of the large states of the capitalist world would appear’, observes Kautsky, ‘to contradict the materialist conception of history, according to which economic development is the basis of political development; but really’, he goes on to say, ‘this only contradicts the materialist conception of history as it is depicted by our opponents and critics, who regard it not as a method of investigation but merely as a ready-made stereotype.’ [3] We particularly recommend these lines to our Russian Marxists, who replace independent analysis of social relations by deductions from texts, selected to serve every occasion in life. Nobody compromises Marxism so much as these self-styled Marxists.

Thus, according to Kautsky, Russia stands on an economically low level of capitalist development, politically it has an insignificant capitalist bourgeoisie and a powerful revolutionary proletariat. This results in the fact that ‘struggle for the interests of all Russia has fallen to the lot of the only now-existing strong class in the country – the industrial proletariat. For this reason the industrial proletariat has tremendous political importance, and for this reason the struggle for the emancipation of Russia from the incubus of absolutism which is stifling it has become converted into a single combat between absolutism and the industrial proletariat, a single combat in which the peasants may render considerable support but cannot play a leading role.

Does not all this give us reason to conclude that the Russian ‘man’ will take power sooner than his ‘master’?

There can be two forms of political optimism. We can exaggerate our strength and advantages in a revolutionary situation and undertake tasks which are not justified by the given correlation of forces. On the other hand, we may optimistically set a limit to our revolutionary tasks – beyond which, however, we shall inevitably be driven by the logic of our position.

It is possible to limit the scope of all the questions of the revolution by asserting that our revolution is bourgeois in its objective aims and therefore in its inevitable results, closing our eyes to the fact that the chief actor in this bourgeois revolution is the proletariat, which is being impelled towards power by the entire course of the revolution.

We may reassure ourselves that in the framework of a bourgeois revolution the political domination of the proletariat will only be a passing episode, forgetting that once the proletariat has taken power in its hands it will not give it up without a desperate resistance, until it is torn from its hands by armed force.

We may reassure ourselves that the social conditions of Russia are still not ripe for a socialist economy, without considering that the proletariat, on taking power, must, by the very logic of its position, inevitably be urged toward the introduction of state management of industry. The general sociological term bourgeois revolution by no means solves the politico-tactical problems, contradictions and difficulties which the mechanics of a given bourgeois revolution throw up.

Within the framework of the bourgeois revolution at the end of the eighteenth century, the objective task of which was to establish the domination of capital, the dictatorship of the sansculottes was found to be possible. This dictatorship was not simply a passing episode, it left its impress upon the entire ensuing century, and this in spite of the fact that it was very quickly shattered against the enclosing barriers of the bourgeois revolution. In the revolution at the beginning of the twentieth century, the direct objective tasks of which are also bourgeois, there emerges as a near prospect the inevitable, or at least the probable, political domination of the proletariat. The proletariat itself will see to it that this domination does not become a mere passing ‘episode’, as some realist philistines hope. But we can even now ask ourselves: is it inevitable that the proletarian dictatorship should be shattered against the barriers of the bourgeois revolution, or is it possible that in the given world-historical conditions, it may discover before it the prospect of victory on breaking through these barriers? Here we are confronted by questions of tactics: should we consciously work towards a working-class government in proportion as the development of the revolution brings this stage nearer, or must we at that moment regard political power as a misfortune which the bourgeois revolution is ready to thrust upon the workers, and which it would be better to avoid?

Ought we to apply to ourselves the words of the ‘realist’ politician Vollmar in connection with the Communards of 1871: ‘Instead of taking power they would have done better to go to sleep’ ...? Notes

1. Marx, Germany in 1848-50, Russ. trans., Alexeyeva edition, 1905, pp.8-9. – L.T. [i.e. Germany: Revolution and Counter-Revolution, Ch.1; Selected Works of Karl Marx, 1942 edition, Vol.II, p.46.]

2. D. Mendeleyev, Towards the Understanding of Russia, 1906, p.99. – L.T.

3. K. Kautsky, American and Russian Workers, Russian translation, St. Petersburg 1906, pp.4 and 5. – L.T.

The Proletariat in Power and the Peasantry

In the event of a decisive victory of the revolution, power will pass into the hands of that class which plays a leading role in the struggle – in other words, into the hands of the proletariat. Let us say at once that this by no means precludes revolutionary representatives of non-proletarian social groups entering the government. They can and should be in the government: a sound policy will compel the proletariat to call to power the influential leaders of the urban petty-bourgeoisie, of the intellectuals and of the peasantry. The whole problem consists in this: who will determine the content of the government’s policy, who will form within it a solid majority?

It is one thing when representatives of the democratic strata of the people enter a government with a workers’ majority, but it is quite another thing when representatives of the proletariat participate in a definitely bourgeois-democratic government in the capacity of more or less honoured hostages.

The policy of the liberal capitalist bourgeoisie, in all its waverings, retreats and treacheries, is quite definite. The policy of the proletariat is even more definite and finished. But the policy of the intellectuals, owing to their socially intermediate character and their political elasticity; the policy of the peasantry, in view of their social diversity, ther intermediate position and their primitiveness; the policy of the urban petty-bourgeoisie, once again owing to its lack of character, its intermediate position and its complete lack of political tradition – the policy of these three social groups is utterly indefinite, unformed, full of possibilities and therefore full of surprises.

It is sufficient to try to imagine a revolutionary democratic government without representatives of the proletariat to see immediately the senselessness of such a conception. The refusal of the social-democrats to participate in a revolutionary government would render such a government quite impossible and would thus be equivalent to a betrayal of the revolution. But the participation of the proletariat in a government is also objectively most probable, and permissible in principle, only as a dominating and leading participation. One may, of course, describe such a government as the dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry, a dictatorship of the proletariat, peasantry and intelligentsia, or even a coalition government of the working class and the petty-bourgeoisie, but the question nevertheless remains: who is to wield the hegemony in the government itself, and through it in the country? And when we speak of a workers’ government, by this we reply that the hegemony should belong to the working class.

The National Convention, as an organ of the Jacobin dictatorship, was by no means composed of Jacobins alone. More than that – the Jacobins were in a minority in it; but the influence of the sansculottes outside the walls of the Convention, and the need for a determined policy in order to save the country, gave power into the hands of the Jacobins. Thus, while the Convention was formally a national representation, consisting of Jacobins, Girondists and the vast wavering Centre known as the ‘marsh’, in essence it was a dictatorship of the Jacobins.

When we speak of a workers’ government we have in view a government in which the working-class representatives dominate and lead. The proletariat, in order to consolidate its power, cannot but widen the base of the revolution. Many sections of the working masses, particularly in the countryside, will be drawn into the revolution and become politically organized only after the advance-guard of the revolution, the urban proletariat, stands at the helm of state. Revolutionary agitation and organization will then be conducted with the help of state resources. The legislative power itself will become a powerful instrument for revolutionizing the masses. The nature of our social-historical relations, which lays the whole burden of the bourgeois revolution upon the shoulders of the proletariat, will not only create tremendous difficulties for the workers’ government but, in the first period of its existence at any rate, will also give it invaluable advantages. This will affect the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry.

In the revolutions of 1789-93 and 1848 power first of all passed from absolutism to the moderate elements of the bourgeoisie, and it was the latter class which emancipated the peasantry (how, is another matter) before revolutionary democracy received or was even preparing to receive power. The emancipated peasantry lost all interest in the political stunts of the ‘townspeople’, that is, in the further progress of the revolution, and placing itself like a heavy foundation-stone at the foot of ‘order’, betrayed the revolution to the Caesarist or ancien-regime-absolutist reaction.

The Russian revolution does not, and for a long time will not, permit the establishment of any kind of bourgeois-constitutional order that might solve the most elementary problems of democracy. All the ‘enlightened’ efforts of reformer-bureaucrats like Witte and Stolypin are nullified by their own struggle for existence. Consequently, the fate of the most elementary revolutionary interests of the peasantry – even the peasantry as a whole, as an estate, is bound up with the fate of entire revolution, i.e., with the fate of the proletariat.

The proletariat in power will stand before the peasants as the class which has emancipated it. The domination of the proletariat will mean not only democratic equality, free self-government, the transference of the whole burden of taxation to the rich classes, the dissolution of the standing army in the armed people and the abolition of compulsory church imposts, but also recognition of all revolutionary changes (expropriations) in land relationships carried out by the peasants. The proletariat will make these changes the starting-point for further state measures in agriculture. Under such conditions the Russian peasantry in the first and most difficult period of the revolution will be interested in the maintenance of a proletarian regime (workers’ democracy) at all events not less than was the French peasantry in the maintenance of the military regime of Napoleon Bonaparte, which guaranteed to the new property-owners, by the force of its bayonets, the inviolability of their holdings. And this means that the representative body of the nation, convened under the leadership of the proletariat, which has secured the support of the peasantry, will be nothing else than a democratic dress for the rule of the proletariat.

But is it not possible that the peasantry may push the proletariat aside and take its place? This is impossible. All historical experience protests against this assumption. Historical experience shows that the peasantry are absolutely incapable of taking up an independent political role. [1]

The history of capitalism is the history of the subordination of the country to the town. The industrial development of the European towns in due course rendered the further existence of feudal relations in agriculture impossible. But the countryside itself never produced a class which could undertake the revolutionary task of abolishing feudalism. The town, which subordinated agriculture to capital, produced a revolutionary force which took political hegemony over the countryside into its hands and spread revolution in state and property relations into the countryside. As further development has proceeded, the country has finally fallen into economic enslavement to capital, and the peasantry into political enslavement to the capitalist parties. These parties have revived feudalism in parliamentary politics, converting the peasantry into a domain for their electoral hunting expeditions. The modern bourgeois state, by means of taxation and militarism, throws the peasant into the clutches of usurers’ capital, and by means of state priests, state schools and the corruptions of barrack life makes him a victim of usurers’ politics.

The Russian bourgeoisie will surrender the entire revolutionary position to the proletariat. It will also have to surrender the revolutionary hegemony over the peasants. In such a situation, created by the transference of power to the proletariat, nothing remains for the peasantry to do but to rally to the regime of workers’ democracy. It will not matter much even if the peasantry does this with a degree of consciousness not larger than that with which it usually rallies to the bourgeois regime. But while every bourgeois party commanding the votes of the peasantry hastens to use its power in order to swindle and deceive the peasants and then, if the worst comes to the worst, gives place to another capitalist party, the proletariat, relying on the peasantry, will bring all forces into play in order to raise the cultural level of the countryside and develop the political consciousness of the peasantry. From what we have said above, it will be clear how we regard the idea of a ‘proletarian and peasant dictatorship’. It is not really a matter of whether we regard it as admissible in principle, whether ‘we do or do not desire’ such a form of political co-operation. We simply think that it is unrealisable – at least in a direct immediate sense.

Indeed, such a coalition presupposes either that one of the existing bourgeois parties commands influence over the peasantry or that the peasantry will have created a powerful independent party of its own, but we have attempted to show that neither the one nor the other is possible. Notes

1. Does the fact of the rise and development first of the Peasant Union and then of the Group of Toil (Trudoviki) in the Duma run counter to these and subsequent arguments? Not in the least. What is the Peasant Union? A Union that embraces some elements of the radical democracy who are looking for masses to support them, together with the more conscious elements of the peasantry – obviously not the lowest strata of the peasantry – on the platform of a democratic revolution and agrarian reform.

As to the agrarian programme of the Peasant Union (’equality in the use of land’), which is the meaning of its existence, the following must be observed: the wider and deeper the development of the agrarian movement and the sooner it comes to the point of confiscation and distribution of land, the sooner will the process of disintegration set in the Peasant Union, in consequence of a thousand contradictions of a class, local, everyday and technical nature. Its members will exercise their share of influence in the Peasants’ Committees, the organs of the agrarian revolution in the villages, but needless to say the Peasants’ Committees, economic-administrative institutions, will not be able to abolish the political dependence of the country upon the town, which forms one of the fundamental features of modern society.

The radicalism and formlessness of the Group of Toil was the expression of the contradictoriness in the revolutionary aspirations of the peasantry. During the period of constitutional illusions it helplessly followed the ‘Cadets’ (Constitutional Democrats). At the moment of the dissolution of the Duma it came naturally under the guidance of the Social-Democratic Group. The lack of independence on the part of the peasant representatives will show itself with particular clearness at the moment when it becomes necessary to show firm initiative, that is, at the time when power has to pass into the hands of the revolutionaries. – L.T.

The Proletarian Regime

The proletariat can only achieve power by relying upon a national upsurge and national enthusiasm. The proletariat will enter the government as the revolutionary representative of the nation, as the recognized national leader in the struggle against absolutism and feudal barbarism. In taking power, however, it will open a new epoch, an epoch of revolutionary legislation, of positive policy, and in this connection it cannot at all be sure of retaining the role of the recognized expressor of the will of the nation. The first measures of the proletariat, cleansing the Augean stables of the old regime and driving out its inmates, will meet with the active support of the whole nation, in spite of what the liberal eunuchs may say about the tenacity of certain prejudices among the masses of the people.

This political cleansing will be supplemented by a democratic reorganization of all social and state relations. The workers’ government will be obliged, under the influence of direct pressures and demands, to intervene decisively in all relationships and events ...

Its first task will have to be the dismissal from the army and administration of all those who are stained with the blood of the people, and the cashiering or disbandment of the regiments which have most sullied themselves with crimes against the people. This will have to be done in the very first days of the revolution, that is, long before it is possible to introduce the system of elected and responsible officials and organize a national militia. But the matter will not end there. Workers’ democracy will immediately be confronted by questions of the length of the working day, the agrarian question, and the problem of unemployment.

One thing is clear. Every passing day will deepen the policy of the proletariat in power, and more and more define its class character. Side by side with that, the revolutionary ties between the proletariat and the nation will be broken, the class disintegration of the peasantry will assume political form, and the antagonism between the component sections will grow in proportion as the policy of the workers’ government defines itself, ceasing to be a general-democratic and becoming a class policy.

Though the absence of accumulated bourgeois-individualistic traditions and anti-proletarian prejudices among the peasantry and intellectuals will assist the proletariat to come into power, it is necessary on the other hand to bear in mind that this absence of prejudices is due not to political consciousness but to political barbarism, social formlessness, primitiveness and lack of character. None of these features can in any way create a reliable basis for a consistent, active proletarian policy.

The abolition of feudalism will meet with support from the entire peasantry, as the burden-bearing estate. A progressive income-tax will also be supported by the great majority of the peasantry. But any legislation carried through for the purpose of protecting the agricultural proletariat will not only not receive the active sympathy of the majority, but will even meet with the active opposition of a minority of the peasantry.

The proletariat will find itself compelled to carry the class struggle into the villages and in this manner destroy that community of interest which is undoubtedly to be found among all peasants, although within comparatively narrow limits. From the very first moment after its taking power, the proletariat will have to find support in the antagonisms between the village poor and village rich, between the agricultural proletariat and the agricultural bourgeoisie. While the heterogeneity of the peasantry creates difficulties and narrows the basis for a proletarian policy, the insufficient degree of class differentiation will create obstacles to the introduction among the peasantry of developed class struggle, upon which the urban proletariat could rely. The primitiveness of the peasantry turns its hostile face towards the proletariat.

The cooling-off of the peasantry, its political passivity, and all the more the active opposition of its upper sections, cannot but have an influence on a section of the intellectuals and the petty-bourgeoisie of the towns.

Thus, the more definite and determined the policy of the proletariat in power becomes, the narrower and more shaky does the ground beneath its feet become. All this is extremely probable and even inevitable ...

The two main features of proletarian policy which will meet opposition from the allies of the proletariat are collectivism and internationalism.

The primitiveness and petty-bourgeois character of the peasantry, its limited rural outlook, its isolation from world-political ties and allegiances, will create terrible difficulties for the consolidation of the revolutionary policy of the proletariat in power.

To imagine that it is the business of Social Democrats to enter a provisional government and lead it during the period of revolutionary-democratic reforms, fighting for them to have a most radical character, and relying for this purpose upon the organized proletariat – and then, after the democratic programme has been carried out, to leave the edifice they have constructed so as to make way for the bourgeois parties and themselves go into opposition, thus opening up a period of parliamentary politics, is to imagine the thing in a way that would compromise the very idea of a workers’ government. This is not because it is inadmissible ‘in principle’ – putting the question in this abstract form is devoid of meaning – but because it is absolutely unreal, it is utopianism of the worst sort – a sort of revolutionary-philistine utopianism.

For this reason:

The division of our programme into maximum and minimum programmes has a profound and tremendous principled significance during the period when power lies in the hands of the bourgeoisie. The very fact of the bourgeoisie being in power drives out of our minimum programme all demands which are incompatible with private property in the means of production. Such demands form the content of a socialist revolution and presuppose a proletarian dictatorship.

Immediately, however, that power is transferred into the hands of a revolutionary government with a socialist majority, the division of our programme into maximum and minimum loses all significance, both in principle and in immediate practice. A proletarian government under no circumstances can confine itself within such limits. Take the question of the eight-hour day. As is known, this by no means contradicts capitalist relations, and therefore it forms an item in the minimum programme of Social Democracy. But let us imagine the actual introduction of this measure during a period of revolution, in a period of intensified class passions; there is no question but that this measure would then meet the organized and determined resistance of the capitalists in the form, let us say, of lockouts and the closing down of factories.

Hundreds of thousands of workers would find themselves thrown on the streets. What should the government do? A bourgeois government, however radical it might be, would never allow affairs to reach this stage because, confronted with the closing-down of factories, it would be left powerless. It would be compelled to retreat, the eight-hour day would not be introduced and the indignant workers would be suppressed.

Under the political domination of the proletariat, the introduction of an eight-hour day should lead to altogether different consequences. For a government that desires to rely upon the proletariat, and not on capital, as liberalism does, and which does not desire to play the role of an ‘impartial’ intermediary of bourgeois democracy, the closing down of factories would not of course be an excuse for increasing the working day. For a workers’ government there would be only one way out: expropriation of the closed factories and the organization of production in them on a socialized basis.

Of course, one can argue in this way: we will suppose that the workers’ government, true to its programme, issues a decree for an eight-hour day; if capital puts up a resistance which cannot be overcome by the resources of a democratic programme based on the preservation of private property, the Social Democrats will resign and appeal to the proletariat. Such a solution would be a solution only from the standpoint of the group constituting the membership of the government, but it would be no solution for the proletariat or for the development of the revolution. After the resignation of the Social Democrats, the situation would be exactly as it was at the time when they were compelled to take power. To flee before the organized opposition of capital would be a greater betrayal of the revolution than a refusal to take power in the first instance. It would really be far better for the working-class party not to enter the government than to go in so as to expose its own weakness and then to quit.

Let us take another example. The proletariat in power cannot but adopt the most energetic measures to solve the question of unemployment, because it is quite obvious that the representatives of the workers in the government cannot reply to the demands of unemployed workers with arguments about the bourgeois character of the revolution.

But if the government undertakes to maintain the unemployed – it is not important for us at the moment in what form – this would mean an immediate and quite substantial shift of economic power to the side of the proletariat. The capitalists, who in their oppression of the workers always relied upon the existence of a reserve army of labour, would feel themselves economically powerless while the revolutionary government, at the same time, doomed them to political impotence.

In undertaking the maintenance of the unemployed, the government thereby undertakes the maintenance of strikers. If it does not do that, it immediately and irrevocably undermines the basis of its own existence.

There is nothing left for the capitalists to do then but to resort to the lockout, that is, to close the factories. It is quite clear that the employers can stand the closing down of production much longer than the workers, and therefore there is only one reply that a workers’ government can give to a general lockout: the expropriation of the factories and the introduction in at least the largest of them of State or communal production.

Similar problems arise in agriculture by the mere fact of the expropriation of the land. In no way must it be supposed that a proletarian government, on expropriating the privately-owned estates carrying on production on a large scale, would break these up and sell them for exploitation to small producers. The only path open to it in this sphere is the organization of co-operative production under communal control or organized directly by the State. But this is the path to Socialism.

All this quite clearly shows that Social Democrats cannot enter a revolutionary government, giving the workers in advance an undertaking not to give way on the minimum programme, and at the same time promising the bourgeoisie not to go beyond it. Such a bilateral undertaking is absolutely impossible to realize. The very fact of the proletariat’s representatives entering the government, not as powerless hostages, but as the leading force, destroys the border-line between maximum and minimum programme; that is to say, it places collectivism on the order of the day. The point at which the proletariat will be held up in its advance in this direction depends upon the relation of forces, but in no way upon the original intentions of the proletarian party.

For this reason there can be no talk of any sort of special form of proletarian dictatorship in the bourgeois revolution, of democratic proletarian dictatorship (or dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry). The working class cannot preserve the democratic character of its dictatorship without refraining from overstepping the limits of its democratic programme. Any illusions on this point would be fatal. They would compromise Social Democracy from the very start.

The proletariat, once having taken power, will fight for it to the very end. While one of the weapons in this struggle for the maintenance and the consolidation of power will be agitation and organization, especially in the countryside, another will be a policy of collectivism. Collectivism will become not only the inevitable way forward from the position in which the party in power will find itself, but will also be a means of preserving this position with the support of the proletariat.

When the idea of uninterrupted revolution was formulated in the socialist press – an idea which connected the liquidation of absolutism and feudalism with a socialist revolution, along with growing social conflicts, uprisings of new sections of the masses, unceasing attacks by the proletariat upon the economic and political privileges of the ruling classes – our ‘progressive’ press raised a unanimous howl of indignation. ‘Oh!’ it cried, ‘we have put up with a lot, but we cannot allow this. Revolution,’ it cried, ‘is not a road that can be “legalized”. The application of exceptional measures is only permissible under exceptional circumstances. The aim of the movement for emancipation is not to make revolution permanent but to lead it as soon as possible into the channel of law,’ etc., etc.

The more radical representatives of this same democracy do not risk taking up a stand against revolution even from the point of view of already-secured constitutional ‘gains’. For them this parliamentary cretinism, preceding the rise of parliamentarism itself, does not constitute a strong weapon in the struggle against the proletarian revolution. They choose another path. They take their stand not on the basis of law but on what seems to them the basis of facts – on the basis of historical ‘possibility’, on the basis of political ‘realism’ and, finally ... finally, even on the basis of ‘marxism’. And why not? That pious Venetian bourgeois, Antonio, very aptly said:

‘The devil can quote Scripture to his purpose.’

These radical democrats not only regard the idea of a workers’ government in Russia as fantastic, but they even deny the possibility of a socialist revolution in Europe in the historical epoch immediately ahead. ‘The pre-requisites of revolution’, they say, ‘are not yet visible.’ Is that true? Certainly there is no question of appointing a dateline for the socialist revolution, but it is necessary to point out its real historical prospects.

The Pre-Requisites of Socialism

Marxism converted socialism into a science, but this does not prevent some ‘Marxists’ from converting Marxism into a Utopia.

Rozhkov, arguing against the programme of socialization and co-operation, presents the ‘necessary pre-requisites of the future society, firmly laid down by Marx’, in the following way: ‘Are there already present,’ asks Rozhkov, ‘the material objective pre-requisites, consisting of such a development of technique as would reduce the motive of personal gain and concern for cash [?], personal effort, enterprise and risk, to a minimum, and which would thereby make social production a front-rank question? Such a level of technique is most closely connected with the almost complete [!] domination of large-scale production in all [!] branches of the economy. Has such a stage been reached? Even the subjective, psychological pre-requisites are lacking, such as the growth of class-consciousness among the proletariat, developed to such a level as to achieve the spiritual unity of the overwhelming mass of the people. We know,’ continues Rozhkov, ‘of producer associations such as the well-known French glassworks at Albi, and several agricultural associations, also in France, and yet the experience of France shows, as nothing else can, that even the conditions of so advanced a country are not sufficiently developed to permit the dominance of co-operation. These enterprises are of only the average size, their technical level is not higher than ordinary capitalist undertakings, they are not at the head of industrial development, do not lead it, but approach a modest average level.

‘Only when the experience of individual productive associations points to their leading role in economic life can we say that we approaching a new system, only then can we be sure that the necessary conditions for its existence have been established.’ [1]

While respecting the good intentions of Comrade Rozhkov, we regretfully have to confess that rarely even in bourgeois literature have we met such confusion as he betrays with regard to what are known as the pre-requisites of socialism. It will be worthwhile dwelling to some extent on this confusion, if not for the sake of Rozhkov, at least for the sake of the question.

Rozhkov declares that we have not yet reached ‘such a stage of technical development as would reduce the motive of personal gain and concern for cash [?], personal effort, enterprise and risk, to a minimum, and which would make social production a front-rank question’.

It is rather difficult to find the meaning of this passage. Apparently Rozhkov wishes to say, in the first place, that modern technique has not yet sufficiently ousted human labour-power from industry and, secondly, that to secure this elimination would require the ‘almost’ complete domination of large state enterprises in all branches of the economy, and therefore the ‘almost’ complete proletarianization of the whole population of the country. These are the two prerequisites to socialism alleged to have been ‘firmly laid down by Marx’.

Let us try and imagine the setting of capitalist relations which, according to Rozhkov, socialism will encounter when it arrives. ‘The almost complete domination of large-scale enterprise in all branches of industry’, under capitalism, means, as has been said, the proletarianization of all small and medium producers in agriculture and industry, that is to say, the conversion of the whole of the population into proletarians. But the complete domination of machine technique in these large undertakings would lead to the reduction of the employment of human labour-power to a minimum, and therefore the overwhelming majority of the population of the country – say, 90 per cent – would be converted into a reserve army of labour living at the expense of the State in workhouses. We said 90 per cent of the population, but there is nothing to prevent us from being logical and imagining a state of affairs in which the whole of production consists of a single automatic mechanism, belonging to a single syndicate and requiring as living labour only a single trained orang-outang. As we know, this is the brilliantly consistent theory of Professor Tugan-Baranovsky. Under such conditions ‘social production’ not only occupies ‘front rank’ but commands the whole field. Under these circumstances, moreover, consumption would naturally also become socialized in view of the fact that the whole of the nation, except the 10 per cent who own the trust, will be living at the public expense in workhouses. Thus, behind Rozhkov we see smiling the familiar face of Tugan-Baranovsky. Socialism can now come on the scene. The population emerges from the workhouses and expropriates the group of expropriators. No revolution or dictatorship of the proletariat is of course necessary.

The second economic sign of the ripeness of a country for socialism, according to Rozhkov, is the possibility of the domination of co-operative production within it. Even in France the co-operative glassworks at Albi is not on a higher level than any other capitalist undertaking. Socialist production becomes possible only when the co-operatives are in the forefront of industrial development, as the leading enterprises.

The entire argument from beginning to end is turned inside out. The co-operatives cannot take the lead in industrial progress, not because economic development has not gone far enough, but because it has gone too far ahead. Undoubtedly, economic development creates the basis for co-operation, but for what kind of co-operation? For capitalist co-operation, based on wage-labour – every factory shows us a picture of such capitalist co-operation. With the development of technique the importance of such co-operation grows also. But in what manner can the development of capitalism place the co-operative societies ‘in the front rank of industry’? On what does Rozhkov base his hopes that the co-operative societies can squeeze out the syndicates and trusts and take their place in the forefront of industrial development? It is evident that if this took place the co-operative societies would then simply have automatically to expropriate all capitalist undertakings, after which it would remain for them to reduce the working day sufficiently to provide work for all citizens and to regulate the amount of production in the various branches in order to avoid crises. In this manner the main features of socialism would be established. Again it is clear that no revolution and no dictatorship of the working class would be at all necessary.

The third pre-requisite is a psychological one: the need for ‘the class-consciousness of the proletariat to have reached such a stage as to unite spiritually the overwhelming majority of the people’. As ‘spiritual unity’, in this instance, must evidently be regarded as meaning conscious socialist solidarity, it follows therefore that Comrade Rozhkov considers that a psychological pre-requisite of socialism is the organization of the ‘overwhelming majority of the population’ within the Social-Democratic Party. Rozhkov evidently assumes therefore that capitalism, throwing the small producers into the ranks of the proletariat, and the mass of the proletarians into the ranks of the reserve army of labour, will create the possibility for Social Democracy spiritually to unite and enlighten the overwhelming majority (90 per cent?) of the people.

This is as impossible of realization in the world of capitalist barbarism as the domination of co-operatives in the realm of capitalist competition. But if this were realizable, then of course, the consciously and spiritually united ‘overwhelming majority’ of the nation would crush without any difficulty the few magnates of capital and organize socialist economy without revolution or dictatorship.

But here the following question arises. Rozhkov regards Marx as his teacher. Yet Marx, having outlined the ‘essential prerequisites for socialism’ in his Communist Manifesto, regarded the revolution of 1848 as the immediate prologue to the socialist revolution. Of course one does not require much penetration after 60 years to see that Marx was mistaken, because the capitalist world still exists. But how could Marx have made this error? Did he not perceive that large-scale undertakings did not yet dominate in all branches of industry; that producers’ co-operatives did not yet stand at the head of the large-scale enterprises; that the overwhelming majority of the people were not yet united on the basis of the ideas set out in the Communist Manifesto? If we do not see these things even now, how is it then that Marx did not perceive that nothing of the kind existed in 1848? Apparently, Marx in 1848 was a Utopian youth in comparison with many of the present-day infallible automata of Marxism!

We thus see that although Comrade Rozhkov by no means belongs among the critics of Marx, nevertheless he completely discards the proletarian revolution as an essential pre-requisite of socialism. As Rozhkov has only too consistently expressed the views shared by a considerable number of Marxists in both trends of our party, it is necessary to dwell on the bases in principle and method of the errors he has made.

One must observe in passing that Rozhkov’s argument concerning the destiny of the co-operatives is his very own. We have never and nowhere met socialists who both believed in such a simple irresistible progress of the concentration of production and proletarianization of the people and at the same time believed in the dominating role of producers’ co-operative societies prior to the proletarian revolution. To unite these two pre-requisites is much more difficult in economic evolution than in one’s head; although even the latter had always seemed to us impossible.

But we will deal with two other ‘pre-requisites’ which constitute more typical prejudices. Undoubtedly, the concentration of production, the development of technique and the growth of consciousness among the masses are essential pre-requisites for socialism. But these processes take place simultaneously, and not only give an impetus to each other, but also retard and limit each other. Each of these processes at a higher level demands a certain development of another process at a lower level. But the complete development of each of them is incompatible with the complete development of the others.

The development of technique undoubtedly finds its ideal limit in a single automatic mechanism which takes raw materials from the womb of nature and throws them at the feet of man in the form of finished articles of consumption. If the existence of the capitalist system were not limited by class relations and the revolutionary struggle that arises from them, we should have some grounds for supposing that technique, approaching the ideal of a single automatic mechanism within the framework of the capitalist system, would thereby automatically abolish capitalism.

The concentration of production arising from the laws of competition inherently tends towards proletarianizing the whole population. Isolating this tendency, we should be right in supposing that capitalism would carry out its work to the end, if the process of proletarianization were not interrupted by a revolution; but this is inevitable, given a certain relationship of forces, long before capitalism has converted the majority of the nation into a reserve army, confined to prison-like barracks.

Further – consciousness, thanks to the experience of the everyday struggle and the conscious efforts of the socialist parties, undoubtedly grows progressively, and, isolating this process, we could in imagination follow this growth until the majority of the people were included in the trade unions and political organizations, united by a spirit of solidarity and singleness of aim. If this process could really increase quantitatively without being affected qualitatively, socialism could be realized peaceably by a unanimous, conscious ‘civil act’ some time in the 21st or the 22nd century.

But the whole point lies in the fact that the processes which are historically pre-requisite for socialism do not develop in isolation, but limit each other, and, reaching a certain stage, determined by numerous circumstances – which, however, is far removed from the mathematical limit of these processes – they undergo a qualitative change, and in their complex combination bring about what we understand by the name of social revolution.

We will begin with the last-mentioned process – the growth of consciousness. This takes place, as we know, not in academies, in which it might be possible artificially to detain the proletariat for fifty, a hundred or five hundred years, but in the course of all-round life in capitalist society, on the basis of unceasing class struggle. The growth of the consciousness of the proletariat transforms this class struggle, gives it a deeper and more purposeful character, which in its turn calls out a corresponding reaction on the part of the dominant class. The struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie will reach its denouement long before large-scale enterprises begin to dominate in all branches of industry.

Further, it is of course true that the growth of political consciousness depends upon the growth of the numbers of the proletariat, and proletarian dictatorship presupposes that the numbers of the proletariat will be sufficiently large to overcome the resistance of the bourgeois counter-revolution. But this does not at all mean that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of the population must be proletarians and the ‘overwhelming majority’ of the proletariat conscious socialists. It is clear, of course, that the conscious revolutionary army of the proletariat must be stronger than the counter-revolutionary army of capital, while the intermediate, doubtful or indifferent strata of the population must be in such a position that the regime of proletarian dictatorship will attract them to the side of the revolution and not repel them to the side of its enemies. Naturally, proletarian policy must consciously take this into consideration.

All this in its turn presupposes the hegemony of industry over agriculture and the domination of town over country.

We will now endeavour to examine the pre-requisites of socialism in diminishing order of generality and increasing order of complexity.

1. Socialism is not merely a question of equal distribution but also a question of planned production. Socialism, that is, co-operative production on a large scale, is possible only when the development of productive forces has reached the stage at which large enterprises are more productive than small ones. The more the large enterprises outweigh the smaller, i.e., the more developed technique has become, the more advantageous economically does socialized production become, and, consequently, the higher must the cultural level of the whole population be as a result of equal distribution based upon planned production.

This first objective pre-requisite of socialism has been in existence a long time – ever since the time when social division of labour led to the division of labour in manufacture. It has existed to an even greater extent since the time when manufacture was replaced by factory, machine production. Large undertakings became more and more advantageous, which also meant that the socialization of these large undertakings would have made society more and more wealthy. It is clear that the transition of all the handicraft workshops to the common ownership of all the handicraftsmen would not have made the latter one whit richer, whereas the transfer of manufactures to the common ownership of their detail-workers, or the transfer of the factories into the hands of the workers employed in them – or, it would be better to say, the transfer of all the means of large factory production into the hands of the whole population – would undoubtedly raise the people’s material level; and the higher the stage reached by large-scale production, the higher would be this level.

In socialist literature the instance is often quoted of the English Member of Parliament, Bellers [2] who, in 1696, i.e., a century before the conspiracy of Babeuf, submitted to Parliament a project for establishing co-operative societies which should independently supply all their own requirements. According to this measure, these producers’ co-operatives were to consist of from two to three hundred persons. We cannot here test his argument, nor is it necessary for our purpose; what is important is that collective economy, even if it was conceived only in terms of groups of 100, 200, 300 or 500 persons, was regarded as advantageous from the standpoint of production already at the end of the 17th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century Fourier drew up his schemes for producer-consumer associations, ‘phalansteries’, each consisting of from 2,000 to 3,000 persons. Fourier’s calculations were never distinguished by their exactness; but at all events, the development of manufacture by that time suggested to him a field for economic collectives incomparably wider than in the example quoted above. It is clear, however, that both the associations of John Bellers and the ‘phalansteries’ of Fourier are much nearer in their character to the free economic communes of which the Anarchists dream, the utopianism of which consists not in their ‘impossibility’ or in their being ‘against nature’ – the communist communes in America proved that they were possible – but in that they have lagged 100 to 200 years behind the progress of economic development.

The development of the social division of labour, on the one hand, and machine production on the other, has led to the position that nowadays the only co-operative body which could utilize the advantages of collective production on a wide scale is the State. More than that, socialist production, for both economic and political reasons, could not be confined within the restricting limits of individual states.

Atlanticus [3], a German Socialist who did not adopt the Marxist point of view, calculated at the end of last century the economic advantages that would accrue from applying socialist economy in a unit such as Germany. Atlanticus was not at all distinguished by flights of fancy. His ideas generally moved within the circle of the economic routine of capitalism. He based his arguments on the writings of authoritative modern agronomists and engineers. This does not weaken his arguments, rather is it his strong side, because it preserves him from undue optimism. In any case, Atlanticus comes to the conclusion that, with proper organization of socialist economy, with employment of the technical resources of the mid-nineties of the 19th century, the income of the workers could be doubled or trebled, and that the working day could be halved.

One should not imagine, however, that Atlanticus was the first to show the economic advantages of socialism. The greater productivity of labour in large undertakings, on the one hand, and, on the other, the necessity for the planning of production, as proved by the economic crises, has been much more convincing evidence for the necessity of socialism than Atlanticus’s socialistic book-keeping. His service consists only in that he expressed these advantages in approximate figures.

From what has been said we are justified in arriving at the conclusion that the further growth of the technical power of man will render socialism more and more advantageous; that sufficient technical pre-requisites for collective production have already existed for a hundred or two hundred years, and that at the present moment socialism is technically advantageous not only on a national but to an enormous extent also on a world scale.

The mere technical advantages of socialism were not at all sufficient for it to be realized. During the 18th and 19th centuries the advantages of large-scale production showed themselves not in a socialist but in a capitalist form. Neither the schemes of Bellers nor those of Fourier were carried out. Why not? Because there were no social forces existent at that time ready and able to carry them out.

2. We now pass from the productive-technical pre-requisites of socialism to the social-economic ones. If we had to deal here not with a society split up by class antagonism, but with a homogeneous community which consciously selects its form of economy, the calculations of Atlanticus would undoubtedly be quite sufficient for socialist construction to be begun. Atlanticus himself, being a socialist of a very vulgar type, thus, indeed, regarded his own work. Such a point of view at the present day could be applied only within the limits of the private business of a single person or of a company. One is always justified in assuming that any scheme of economic reform, such as the introduction of new machinery, new raw materials, a new form of management of labour, or new systems of remuneration, will always be accepted by the owners if only these schemes can be shown to offer a commercial advantage. But in so far as we have to do here with the economy of society, that is not sufficient. Here, opposing interests are in conflict. What is advantageous for one is disadvantageous for another. The egoism of one class acts not only against the egoism of another, but also to the disadvantage of the whole community. Therefore, in order to realize socialism it is necessary that among the antagonistic classes of capitalist society there should be a social force which is interested, by virtue of its objective position, in the realization of socialism, and which is powerful enough to be able to overcome hostile interests and resistances in order to realize it.

One of the fundamental services rendered by scientific socialism consists in that it theoretically discovered such a social force in the proletariat, and showed that this class, inevitably growing along with capitalism, can find its salvation only in socialism, that the entire position of the proletariat drives it towards socialism and that the doctrine of socialism cannot but become in the long run the ideology of the proletariat.

It is easy to understand therefore what a tremendous step backwards Atlanticus takes when he asserts that, once it is proved that, ‘by transferring the means of production into the hands of the State, not only can the general well being be secured, but the working-day also reduced, then it is a matter of indifference whether the theory of the concentration of capital and the disappearance of the intermediate classes of society is confirmed or not’.

According to Atlanticus, immediately the advantages of socialism have been proved, ‘it is useless resting one’s hopes on the fetish of economic development, one should make extensive investigations and start [!] a comprehensive and thorough preparation for the transition from private to state or “social” production’. [4]

In objecting to the purely oppositional tactics of the Social Democrats and suggesting an immediate ‘start’ in preparing the transition to socialism, Atlanticus forgets that the Social Democrats still lack the power needed for this, and that Wilhelm II, Bülow and the majority in the German Reichstag, although they have power in their hands, have not the slightest intention of introducing socialism. The socialist schemes of Atlanticus are no more convincing to the Hohenzollerns than the schemes of Fourier were to the restored Bourbons, notwithstanding the fact that the latter based his political utopianism on passionate fantasies in the field of economic theory, whereas Atlanticus, in his not less utopian politics, based himself on convincing, philistinely-sober book-keeping.

What level must social differentiation have attained in order that the second pre-requisite for socialism may be realized? In other words, what must be the relative numerical weight of the proletariat? Must it make up a half, two-thirds or nine-tenths of the population? It would be an absolutely hopeless undertaking to try to define the bare arithmetical limits of this second prerequisite for socialism. In the first place, in such a schematic effort, we should have to decide the question of who is to be included in the category ‘proletariat’. Should we include the large class of semi-proletarian semi-peasants? Should we include the reserve masses of the urban proletariat – who on the one hand merge into the parasitical proletariat of beggars and thieves, and on the other fill the city streets as small traders playing a parasitical role in relation to the economic system as a whole? This question is not at all a simple one.

The importance of the proletariat depends entirely on the role it plays in large-scale production. The bourgeoisie relies, in its struggle for political domination, upon its economic power. Before it manages to secure political power, it concentrates the country’s means of production in its own hands. This is what determines its specific weight in society. The proletariat, however, in spite of all co-operative phantasmagoria, will be deprived of the means of production right up to the actual socialist revolution. Its social power comes from the fact that the means of production which are in the hands of the bourgeoisie can be set in motion only by the proletariat. From the point of view of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat is also one of the means of production, constituting, in conjunction with the others, a single unified mechanism. The proletariat, however, is the only non-automatic part of this mechanism, and in spite of all efforts it cannot be reduced to the condition of an automaton. This position gives the proletariat the power to hold up at will, partially or wholly, the proper functioning of the economy of society, through partial or general strikes. From this it is clear that the importance of a proletariat – given identical numbers – increases in proportion to the amount of productive forces which it sets in motion. That is to say, a proletarian in a large factory is, all other things being equal, a greater social magnitude than a handicraft worker, and an urban worker a greater magnitude than a country worker. In other words, the political role of the proletariat is the more important in proportion as large-scale production dominates small production, industry dominates agriculture and the town dominates the country. If we take the history of Germany or of England in the period when the proletariat of these countries formed the same proportion of the nation as the proletariat now forms in Russia, we shall see that they not only did not play, but by their objective importance could not play, such a role as the Russian proletariat plays today.

The same thing, as we have seen, applies to the role of the towns. When, in Germany, the population of the towns was only 15 per cent of the whole population of the country, as it is in Russia today, there could be no thought of the German towns playing that role in the economic and political life of the country which the Russian towns play today. The concentration of large industrial and commercial institutions in the towns, and the linking of the towns and the provinces by means of a system of railways, has given our towns an importance far exceeding the mere number of their inhabitants; the growth of their importance has greatly exceeded the growth of their population, while the growth of the population of the towns in its turn has exceeded the natural increase of the population of the country as a whole ... In Italy in 1848 the number of handicraftsmen – not only proletarians but also independent masters – amounted to about 15 per cent of the population, i.e., not less than the proportion of handicraftsmen and proletarians in Russia at the present day. But the role played by them was incomparably less than that played by the modern Russian industrial proletariat.

From what has been said it should be clear that the attempt to define in advance what proportion of the whole population must be proletarian at the moment of the conquest of political power is a fruitless task. Instead of that, we will offer a few rough figures showing the relative numerical strength of the proletariat in the advanced countries at the present time. The occupied population of Germany in 1895 was 20,500,000 (not including the army, state officials and persons without a definite occupation). Out of this number there were 12,500,000 proletarians (including wage-workers in agriculture, industry, commerce and also domestic service); the number of agricultural and workers being 10,750,000. Many of the remaining 8,000,000 are really also proletarians, such as workers in domestic industries, working members of the family, etc. The number of wage-workers in agriculture taken separately was 5,750,000. The agricultural population composed 36 per cent of the entire population of the country. These figures, we repeat, refer to 1895. The eleven years that have passed since then have unquestionably produced a tremendous change – in the direction of an increase in the proportion of the urban to the agricultural population (in 1882 the agricultural population was 42 per cent of the whole), an increase in the proportion of the industrial proletariat to the agricultural proletariat, and, finally, an increase in the amount of productive capital per industrial worker as compared with 1895. But even the 1895 figures show that the German proletariat already long ago constituted the dominant productive force in the country.

Belgium, with its 7,000,000 population, is a purely industrial country. Out of every hundred persons engaged in some occupation, 41 are in industry in the strict sense of the word and only 21 are employed in agriculture. Out of the 3,000,000-odd gainfully employed, nearly 1,800,000, i.e., 60 per cent, are proletarians. This figure would become much more expressive if we added to the sharply differentiated proletariat the social elements related to it – the so-called ‘independent’ producers who are independent only in form but are actually enslaved to capital, the lower officials, the soldiers, etc.

But first place as regards industrialization of the economy and proletarianization of the population must undoubtedly be accorded to Britain. In 1901 the number of persons employed in agriculture, forestry and fisheries was 2,300,000, while the number in industry, commerce and transport was 12,500,000. We see, therefore, that in the chief European countries the population of the towns predominates numerically over the population of the countryside. But the great predominance of the urban population lies not only in the mass of productive forces that it constitutes, but also in its qualitative personal composition. The town attracts the most energetic, able and intelligent elements of the countryside. To prove this statistically is difficult, although the comparative age composition of the population of town and country provides indirect evidence of it. The latter fact has a significance of its own. In Germany in 1896 there were calculated to be 8,000,000 persons employed in agriculture and 8,000,000 in industry. But if we divide the population according to age-groups, we see that agriculture has 1,000,000 able-bodied persons between the ages of 14 and 40—less than in industry. This shows that it is ‘the old and the young’ who pre-eminently remain in the country.

All this leads us to the conclusion that economic evolution – the growth of industry, the growth of large enterprises, the growth of the towns, and the growth of the proletariat in general and the industrial proletariat in particular – has already prepared the arena not only for the struggle of the proletariat for political power but for the conquest of this power.

3. Now we come to the third pre-requisite of socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Politics is the plane upon which the objective pre-requisites of socialism are intersected by the subjective ones. Under certain definite social-economic conditions, a class consciously sets itself a certain aim – the conquest of political power; it unites its forces, weighs up the strength of the enemy and estimates the situation. Even in this third sphere, however, the proletariat is not absolutely free. Besides the subjective factors – consciousness, preparedness and initiative, the development of which also have their own logic – the proletariat in carrying out its policy comes up against a number of objective factors such as the policy of the ruling classes and the existing State institutions (such as the army, the class schools, the State church), international relations, etc.

We will deal first of all with the subjective conditions: the preparedness of the proletariat for a socialist revolution. It is, of course, not sufficient that the standard of technique has rendered socialist economy advantageous from the point of view of the productivity of social labour. It is not sufficient, either, that the social differentiation based on this technique has created a proletariat which is the main class by virtue of its numbers and its economic role, and which is objectively interested in socialism. It is further necessary that this class should be conscious of its objective interests; it is necessary that it should understand that there is no way out for it except through socialism; it is necessary that it should combine in an army sufficiently powerful to conquer political power in open battle.

It would be stupid at the present time to deny the necessity for the proletariat to be prepared in this manner. Only old-fashioned Blanquists can hope for salvation from the initiative of conspiratorial organizations which have taken shape independently of the masses; or their antipodes, the anarchists, might hope for a spontaneous, elemental outburst of the masses, the end of which no one can tell. Social-Democrats speak of the conquest of power as the conscious action of a revolutionary class.

But many socialist ideologues (ideologues in the bad sense of the word – those who stand everything on its head) speak of preparing the proletariat for socialism in the sense of its being morally regenerated. The proletariat, and even ‘humanity’ in general, must first of all cast out its old egoistical nature, and altruism must become predominant in social life, etc. As we are as yet far from such a state of affairs, and ‘human nature’ changes very slowly, socialism is put off for several centuries. Such a point of view probably seems very realistic and evolutionary, and so forth, but as a matter of fact it is really nothing but shallow moralizing.

It is assumed that a socialist psychology must be developed before the coming of socialism, in other words that it is possible for the masses to acquire a socialist psychology under capitalism. One must not confuse here the conscious striving towards socialism with socialist psychology. The latter presupposes the absence of egotistical motives in economic life; whereas the striving towards socialism and the struggle for it arise from the class psychology of the proletariat. However many points of contact there may be between the class psychology of the proletariat and classless socialist psychology, nevertheless a deep chasm divides them.

The joint struggle against exploitation engenders splendid shoots of idealism, comradely solidarity and self-sacrifice, but at the same time the individual struggle for existence, the ever-yawning abyss of poverty, the differentiation in the ranks of the workers themselves, the pressure of the ignorant masses from below, and the corrupting influence of the bourgeois parties do not permit these splendid shoots to develop fully. For all that, in spite of his remaining philistinely egoistic, and without his exceeding in ‘human’ worth the average representative of the bourgeois classes, the average worker knows from experience that his simplest requirements and natural desires can be satisfied only on the ruins of the capitalist system.

The idealists picture the distant future generation which shall have become worthy of socialism exactly as Christians picture the members of the first Christian communes.

Whatever the psychology of the first proselytes of Christianity may have been – we know from the Acts of the Apostles of cases of embezzlement of communal property – in any case, as it became more widespread, Christianity not only failed to regenerate the souls of all the people, but itself degenerated, became materialistic and bureaucratic; from the practice of fraternal teaching one of another it changed into papalism, from wandering beggary into monastic parasitism; in short, not only did Christianity fail to subject to itself the social conditions of the milieu in which it spread, but it was itself subjected by them. This did not result from the lack of ability or the greed of the fathers and teachers of Christianity, but as a consequence of the inexorable laws of the dependence of human psychology upon the conditions of social life and labour, and the fathers and teachers of Christianity showed this dependence in their own persons.

If socialism aimed at creating a new human nature within the limits of the old society it would be nothing more than a new edition of the moralistic utopias. Socialism does not aim at creating a socialist psychology as a pre-requisite to socialism but at creating socialist conditions of life as a pre-requisite to socialist psychology. Notes

1. N. Rozhkov, On the Agrarian Question, pp.21 and 22. – L.T.

2. John Bellers was not an MP, but a Quaker landowner, who published his plan in the form of an address to parliament.

3. G. Jaegkh

4. Atlanticus, The State of the Future, published by Dyelo, St. Petersburg 1906, pp.22 and 23. – L.T.

A Workers’ Government in Russia and Socialism

We have shown above that the objective pre-requisites for a socialist revolution have already been created by the economic development of the advanced capitalist countries. But what can we say in this connection with regard to Russia?

Can we expect that the transference of power into the hands of the Russian proletariat will be the beginning of the transformation of our national economy into a socialist one? A year ago we replied to this question in an article which was subjected to a severe crossfire of criticism by the organs of both factions of our party. In this article we said the following:

‘“The Paris workers,” Marx tells us, “did not demand miracles from their Commune.” We, too, must not expect immediate miracles from proletarian dictatorship today. Political power is not omnipotence. It would be absurd to suppose that it is only necessary for the proletariat to take power and then by passing a few decrees to substitute socialism for capitalism. An economic system is not the product of the actions of the government. All that the proletariat can do is to apply its political power with all possible energy in order to ease and shorten the path of economic evolution towards collectivism.

‘The proletariat will begin with those reforms which figure in what is known as the minimum programme; and directly from these the very logic of its position will compel it to pass over to collectivist measures.

‘The introduction of the eight-hour day and the steeply progressive income-tax will be comparatively easy, although even here the centre of gravity will lie not in the passing of the “act” but in organizing the practical carrying out of the measures. But the chief difficulty will be – and herein lies the transition to collectivism! – in the state organization of production in those factories which have been closed by their owners in reply to the passing of these acts. To pass a law for the abolition of the right of inheritance and to put such a law into effect will be a comparatively easy task. Legacies in the form of money capital also will not embarrass the proletariat or burden its economy. But to act as the inheritor of land and industrial capital means that the workers’ state must be prepared to undertake the organizing of social production.

‘The same thing, but to a wider degree, must be said of expropriation – with or without compensation. Expropriation with compensation would be politically advantageous but financially difficult, whereas expropriation without compensation would be financially advantageous but politically difficult. But the greatest difficulties of all will be met within the organization of production. We repeat, a government of the proletariat is not a government that can perform miracles.

‘The socialization of production will commence with those branches of industry which present the least difficulties. In the first period, socialized production will be like a number of eases, connected with private undertakings by the laws of commodity circulation. The wider the field of social production becomes extended, the more obvious will become its advantages, the firmer will the new political regime feel, and the bolder will the further economic measures of the proletariat become. In these measures it can and will rely not merely upon the national productive forces, but also upon the technique of the whole world, just as in its revolutionary policy it will rely on the experience not only of the class relations within the country but also on the whole historical experience of the international proletariat.’

The political domination of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic enslavement. No matter under what political flag the proletariat has come to power, it is obliged to take the path of socialist policy. It would be the greatest utopianism to think that the proletariat, having been raised to political domination by the internal mechanism of a bourgeois revolution, can, even if it so desires, limit its mission to the creation of republican-democratic conditions for the social domination of the bourgeoisie. The political domination of the proletariat, even if it is only temporary, will weaken to an extreme degree the resistance of capital, which always stands in need of the support of the state, and will give the economic struggle of the proletariat tremendous scope. The workers cannot but demand maintenance for strikers from the revolutionary government, and a government relying upon the workers cannot refuse this demand. But this means paralyzing the effect of the reserve army of labour and making the workers dominant not only in the political but also in the economic field, and converting private property in the means of production into a fiction. These inevitable social-economic consequences of proletarian dictatorship will reveal themselves very quickly, long before the democratization of the political system has been completed. The barrier between the ‘minimum’ and the ‘maximum’ programme disappears immediately the proletariat comes to power.

The first thing the proletarian regime must deal with on coming into power is the solution of the agrarian question, with which the fate of vast masses of the population of Russia is bound up. In the solution of this question, as in all others, the proletariat will be guided by the fundamental aim of its economic policy, i.e., to command as large as possible a field in which to carry out the organization of socialist economy. The form and tempo of the execution of this agrarian policy, however, must be determined by the material resources at the disposal of the proletariat, as well as by care to act so as not to throw possible aIlies into the ranks of the counter-revolutionaries.

The agrarian question, i.e., the question of the fate of agriculture in its social relations, is not, of course, exhausted by the land question, i.e., the question of forms of landownership. There is no doubt, however, that the solution of the land question, even if it does not predetermine agrarian evolution, will at least predetermine the agrarian policy of the proletariat: in other words, what the proletarian regime does with the land must be closely connected with its general attitude to the course and the requirements of agricultural development. For that reason the land question occupies first place.

One solution of the land question, to which the Socialist-Revolutionaries have given a far from irreproachable popularity, is the socialization of all land; a term, which, relieved of its European make-up, means nothing else than the ‘equalization of the use of land’ (or ‘black redistribution’). The programme of the equal distribution of the land thus presupposes the expropriation of all land, not only privately-owned land in general, or privately-owned peasant land, but even communal land. If we bear in mind that this expropriation would have to be one of the first acts of the new regime, while commodity-capitalist relations were still completely dominant, then we shall see that the first ‘victims’ of this expropriation would be (or rather, would feel themselves to be) the peasantry. If we bear in mind that the peasant, during several decades, has paid the redemption money which should have converted the allotted land into his own private property; if we bear in mind that some of the more well-to-do of the peasants have acquired – undoubtedly by making considerable sacrifices, borne by a still-existing generation – large tracts of land as private property, then it will be easily imagined what a tremendous resistance would be aroused by the attempt to convert communal and small-scale privately-owned lands into state property. If it acted in such a fashion the new regime would begin by rousing a tremendous opposition against itself among the peasantry.

For what purpose should communal and small-scale privately-owned land be converted into state property? In order, in one way or another, to make it available for ‘equal’ economic exploitation by all landowners, including the present landless peasants and agricultural labourers. Thus, the new regime would gain nothing economically by the expropriation of small holdings and communal land, since, after the redistribution, the state or public lands would be cultivated as private holdings. Politically, the new regime would make a very big blunder, as it would at once set the mass of the peasantry against the town proletariat as the leader of the revolutionary policy.

Further, equal distribution of the land presupposes that the employment of hired labour will be prohibited by law. The abolition of wage labour can and must be a consequence of economic reform, but it cannot be predetermined by juridical prohibition. It is not sufficient to forbid the capitalist landlord to employ wage-labour, it is necessary first of all to secure for the landless labourer the possibility of existence – and a rational existence from the social-economic point of view. Under the programme of equalization of the use of land, forbidding the employment of wage labour will mean, on the one hand, compelling the landless labourers to settle on tiny scraps of land and, on the other, obliging the government to provide them with the necessary stock and implements for their socially-irrational production.

It is of course understood that the intervention of the proletariat in the organization of agriculture will begin not by binding scattered labourers to scattered patches of land, but with the exploitation of large estates by the State or the communes. Only when the socialization of production has been placed well on its feet can the process of socialization be advanced further, towards the prohibition of hired labour. This will render small capitalist farming impossible, but will still leave room for subsistence or semi-subsistence holdings, the forcible expropriation of which in no way enters into the plans of the socialist proletariat.

In any case, we cannot undertake to carry out a programme of equal distribution which, on the one hand, presupposes an aimless, purely formal expropriation of small holdings, and on the other, demands the complete break-up of large estates into small pieces. This policy, being directly wasteful from the economic standpoint, could only have a reactionary-utopian ulterior motive, and above all would politically weaken the revolutionary party.

But how far can the socialist policy of the working class be applied in the economic conditions of Russia? We can say one thing with certainty – that it will come up against political obstacles much sooner than it will stumble over the technical backwardness of the country. Without the direct State support of the European proletariat the working class of Russia cannot remain in power and convert its temporary domination into a lasting socialistic dictatorship. Of this there cannot for one moment be any doubt. But on the other hand there cannot be any doubt that a socialist revolution in the West will enable us directly to convert the temporary domination of the working class into a socialist dictatorship.

In 1904, Kautsky, discussing the prospects of social development and calculating the possibility of an early revolution in Russia, wrote: ‘Revolution in Russia could not immediately result in a socialist regime. The economic conditions of the country are not nearly mature for this purpose.’ But the Russian revolution would certainly give a strong impetus to the proletarian movement in the rest of Europe, and in consequence of the struggle that would flare up, the proletariat might come to power in Germany. ‘Such an outcome,’ continued Kautsky, ‘must have an influence on the whole of Europe. It must lead to the political domination of the proletariat in Western Europe and create for the Eastern European proletariat the possibility of contracting the stages of their development and, copying the example of the Germans, artificially setting up socialist institutions. Society as a whole cannot artificially skip any stages of its development, but it is possible for constituent parts of society to hasten their retarded development by imitating the more advanced countries and, thanks to this, even to take their stand in the forefront of development, because they are not burdened with the ballast of tradition which the older countries have to drag along ... This may happen,’ says Kautsky, ‘but, as we have already said, here we leave the field of inevitability and enter that of possibility, and so things may happen otherwise.’

These lines were written by this German Social-Democratic theoretician at a time when he was considering the question whether a revolution would break out first in Russia or in the West. Later on, the Russian proletariat revealed a colossal strength, unexpected by the Russian Social-Democrats even in their most optimistic moods. The course of the Russian revolution was decided, so far as its fundamental features were concerned. What two or three years ago was or seemed possible, approached to the probable, and everything points to the fact that it is on the brink of becoming inevitable.

Leon Trotsky, Results and Prospects, 1906

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